Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eating my way through Malaysia

To be honest, I'm not really sure I can say much about Malaysia other than the food. LOL. This is going to sound more like a food critique than a travel entry because quite frankly I'm seriously just enjoying all the culinary goodness this country has to offer!

I got on a train from Singapore and within 7 hours found myself in Kuala Lumpur. I barely had enough time to think about my first truly solo travel when I met a really great couple (German and Korean) who I was lucky enough to explore the city with.

  • Deceptively smaller than you would think. Seems large on a map but everything is within 1-2 Km and walkable. I've got the fun kitchy pics with the Petronas tower (a must) and I must say, it is even more beautiful at night. They're surprisingly environmental friendly because they turn off all the lights at midnight - I found that impressive.
  • It was odd to see Arabic everywhere (it was almost like being in the Middle East in some areas) and then learned that Malaysia is officially a Muslim country. One of the things I'm impressed with is the ethic and religious diversity of the region. When you're walking down the street you'll see a Hindu temple across from a Buddhist one, which is on the same block as a Mosque with a Church in the corner! How's that for an example of religious tolerance?!
  • I did enjoy was the start of my culinary experience (and incidental weight gain) - We ate Chinese food in Chinatown and great Indian food in Little India. The Roti Canai here is legendary. It's the kind of roti that I've been dreaming off since Kuwait. It's always made fresh, is ridiculously cheap and is seriously good!

Taman Negara
  • Said to be the oldest rain forest in the world. I enjoyed a couple of massive hikes - which meant, after a hot and sweaty 5 hrs, we're just pretty happy that we weren't swarmed by leeches (almost disappointing, but not really) and most importantly didn't get lost.
  • You'd think some jungle treks would be a good weight loss regime but then I discovered Mamak noodles - a wonderfully spicy, sweet and salty noodle dish topped with fried garlic, prawns and chicken. Oh and yellow pancakes/crepes - they put tumeric in it! Who'd have thought...yummy, although it looks kinda weird.
  • Also took a scenic jaunt on apparently the longest canopy walkway above the forest.
  • Unfortunately, there wasn't much in the way of seeing animals. No tigers or elephants, just some insects, scorpions, deer so I got out of the jungle and into cooler weather...

Cameron Highlands
  • After the oppressive heat, Cameron Highlands was a welcome refuge. It was soooo nice to actually wear a sweater and not have heat radiate from my body!!
  • Up in the mountainous region of Central Malaysia, you're surrounded by strawberry farms, fresh produce and the beauty of lush tea plantations. It's rows and rows of tea bushes, green as far as the eyes can see. It's beautiful and peaceful but I've realized that I really don't have the palate for differentiating quality tea...Being a coffee drinker, I don't know much about tea, so it was interesting to learn about how it's grown, the process to make it and the different variables that make "good" tea. Incidentally, I was having a starbucks coffee during the tour...I know, terrible, but I really needed my caffeine fix! :)
  • Mossy forest - beautiful and serene, the best part of the tour I went on was learning about the different wild plants that could potentially save me if I got lost in a forest. You can eat tips of a young fern plant, wild cinnamon grow as thick as branches (and fetch a lot on the black market) and ginger has a ridiculous amount of healing properties (one I didn't know, apparently great for hangovers!)
  • Food wise, let's see - I discovered these fried banana balls that were delish and a great pre/post hike snack, had one of the largest, most varied 'steamboat' aka hotpot and introduced a bunch of Germans to the Southern Indian eating experience...murtabak and curry anyone?
  • I had no expectations about the 2nd largest city in Malaysia, in fact I didn't really know very much about it. What I saw was an interesting combination of colonial buildings from it's British empire days, mixed with a few skyscrapers, resorts and old dilapidated buildings set in a port city/island. I'm glad I stayed an extra day with the scooter...I really enjoy feeling the air, sun, wind and (slight) rain on my skin while I get to look around and see vistas from all parts of Penang.
  • I really enjoy seeing temples (maybe cause I'm just beginning this leg of it). I'm not sure if it's being in Asia that gives it a more "authentic" feel, or the Buddhist chants from the monks, or the feng shui of the large breezy space, or the usually immaculate gardens but there is a sense of peacefulness that comes to you when are visiting temples.
  • Known as the food capital of Malaysia - there was no doubt that I was going to end up here! Some things that I've discovered:
  1. I think Malaysian food is now officially one of my favourites ever!
  2. I can never be vegetarian. I find it odd to order something, and only realize after 5 bites in, that it's not meat and 10 bites later figure out that I don't enjoy it.
  3. Too much of a good thing will make your stomach hurt (an odd feeling since usually I have the stomach of steel! Steel I say. Oh and yes, you will gain weight even if you're trekking everywhere.
  4. My spice tolerance is significantly lower...I sweat (even more) when I eat the food, after 5 minutes you'd think it'd, the burning sensation really doesn't.
  5. Even when you ask what is in the food or what it's made of and they answer in English, you still won't know what you ate.
  6. Food is stupid cheap here. I think the most I've paid is 20 Ringgits ($7) and that was sharing 5 dishes between 3 people or 3 dishes with fresh fish between 2 (with a drink)! On average, things cause about $1-3/meal!

Yummy Laksa - spicy, salty and sweet from a Hawker stall.

I've never seen a mosque over an ocean before!

Giant golden Buddha in a Burmese Temple.

Mossy forest. Look I'm wearing a hoodie!

Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang.
High Tea anyone? Tea Plantation in Cameron Highlands.

Very large and jungle like.

My Tarzan moment in Taman Negara.

I think I almost look tall beside the Petronas towers!

So thanks Malaysia for the yummy goodness and now I'm off to Thailand to hopefully get back in better shape with some world class diving!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy 1 Year Anniversary in Singapore = Appropriately enough Happy Chinese New Year!

My blog has always been a little too politically correct (although that is what I am like and my Canadian sensibility makes sure that I'm fairly polite about everything). But what the hell, here's a more honest entry! As my official 1 year anniversary of traveling here's an uncensored blog - cause what's the point of feeling liberated if you don't completely describe everything (ok, who am I kidding, not everything)!

This was written feeling both my best and my crappiest = My running soundtrack: "If I ever Feel Better" - Phoenix. "Feeling Good" - Muse. "Flawed Design" - Stabilo. "Time of my Life" - BEP.


  • I'm having the effing time of my life!! It does not get any better than this. I really can't imagine a moment in my future when I would look back at this time and think - wow, I really shouldn't have taken time out to explore the world. Are you kidding me? Ya, I'm proud of myself for making this decision and yes I'm blessed!
  • Coolness factor - Life is great when you can take the time out to explore and enjoy things. People are drawn to you, because you exude a confidence and happiness that comes from traveling. "So...what do you do?" Me: "Nothing, I'm just traveling the world" - comes with big happy grin, works like a charm ;)
  • My 5 senses are overloaded with pleasures. I see amazing things - some of the scenery are arrestingly beautiful. I hear everything from nature untouched to sounds of joy and pleasure. I've touched/felt incredible sensations. I've smelled - ok, this one isn't always great! LOL But I have slowed down enough to smell the orchids. And as a foodie, my taste buds gets tantalized by wonderful culinary treats from different places.
  • Freedom - I have never loved life this much! And what's not to love? I have complete and utter freedom to do/be/act however I see fit. It's liberating and I find it interesting how we still manage to censor ourselves and yet sometimes go a little overboard when you're intoxicated by it all. I'm trying a whole bunch of different approaches mainly cause I can...some have not been as successful, sometimes it's a bit of a wreck, but other times man, does it ever work out for you!
  • Learning things - Different cultures, people, myself. I'm challenged and taught new lessons almost everyday whether it's patience with line ups in the Philippines, responsibility with family, a new language, emotional vulnerability, openness, infatuations, obsessions, trust, limits, fears, bravery. etc. I've never felt so excited and exhilarated by people, places, events - traveling puts you in a constant state of change and the need to adapt...and if you're lucky - you get to make the most of it!
  • I MISS...
  • Everyone :( I do. Thank goodness for FB, Skype and emails. I'd be lost without being in constant touch with people. I just miss people. Terribly. I'll keep it at that!
  • The little and not so little things - my own "home", the smell of pine trees when I'm hiking in North Van, bickering lovingly with my parents, meeting up with the girls, driving my convertible, chillaxing, kayaking in Deep Cove, talking to my sisters, playing with my nephews and nieces, Stanley park, having a smoke/bbq with Duazel, shooting the shit with Yasmeen, drinking wine with Jen and Thorsten in their hot tub, traveling with Yuko and her keeping me sane, working out with Astrid, my Ai crew, being in the same city as Chrissy, having more clothes, wearing boots during fall. I dunno, there are tons of random stuff...
  • Lack of normalcy - Sometimes you lose a bit of yourself because you're not part of the "real world". You're part of some weird alternate reality that you've created that puts you in all types of exciting adventures and you get to do some fun things but sometimes it does get too much. You can get lost cause you discover sides of you, you had no idea existed.
  • My liver's health - I'm pretty sure she has not been this abused ever. I mean I completely laid low in my late 20s. Well apparently, we're making up for lost time (and why am I starting to forget things and have lapses in my, what was I saying?)
  • Dwindling bank account - Although it is cheaper to literally travel around the world than to stay at home in Vancouver, not having money coming in is hard. But ya, I'll admit it, I'm trying to figure out how to keep this going for as long as humanly possible!
  • Things getting stolen. It does not matter how careful you are, how responsible you think you are or even how safe something might be. Things go missing. Period. You will spend an hour or day cursing your brains out half mad and angry but it'll still be gone. Sigh.
  • Learning some lessons about yourself the hard way. The following at one point or another has happened: I've been mortified, ashamed, unhealthy, selfish, self absorbed, anxious, lonely, uncomfortable, angry, belligerently drunk (not my proudest moment), bored to death, ridiculously hungover, freaking out at times etc (don't worry I've felt the opposite of all of the above as well). You feel the zenith of everything because you don't have anything else to distract you - you're not part of the rat race, you're just there experiencing everything in what is usually it's purest form and you react unusually as a result. I'm learning about silver linings, my own new boundaries, my wants and needs. It's definitely interesting to go through odd experiences. You just need learn from it and see what comes out of far so good...although some lessons I'm sure I could have skipped! Ugh & LOL.
  • On the wonderful side, It's really nice to come into yourself. You feel on top of the world and just freaking great. It's sad that most people don't really know their own self worth and question that very core of themselves that they should be proud of. It's amazing how long it takes us to really feel comfortable with who we are. I know life is a work in progress but my gosh I'm sooo happy to be at a much better place. I'm pretty sure I'd come upon this lesson in due time but traveling speeds everything up. And thank goodness!
  • Compliments - You hear some of the best compliments you will ever hear from some of the greatest and most fascinating people you'll meet - That is the ultimate flattery... even the alcohol induced comments are great and appreciated. lol. It's heady to hear how beautiful your aura is, or how inspiring you are, or how sexy or great you are a person - these are the moments you want to have seared in your brain. I think that's why I'm so vocal - I know the power of hearing things, it's nice and most people don't hear it enough or know it for that matter.
  • Things that make me smile: Dancing in the rain, Pirate hunters, life coaches, beautiful young thangs, Brazilian speedos, mirrors, compliments, Encore, sleeping/passing out on the floor, sneaking out, swimming pools, Skype dates, supermodels, lychee martinis, FB chat, !!!, great new BFFs, great connections.

Marina Bay Sands = pretty and expensive just like the rest of the city!

Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, See no Evil...Just get it done ?

Colours of little India.

Best. Picture. Ever.
Foreshadowing at its best/worst?
*Side note - re: Background. Punishment = Costly

Merlion the Symbol of Singapore.

Please give me Peace and Serenity.

Happy Chinese New Year in Chinatown.

Year of the Rabbit!
Oh sooo very many jokes there...

Yummy Chicken Rice, Brinjal, Fried Tofu with Tina.

The Urban Jungle/Shopping Mall of Asia.

I'm not really sure what to make of Singapore to be honest. Impressions - It's rich, expensive and clean (yes, I have stayed away from spitting anywhere!) What it looks like? An organized Asian city with lots of greenery and beautiful tall skycrapers with interesting modern architecture. When I first got here, it was raining... alot! So I took the opportunity to rest, get healthy and be lazy (thanks to the hospitality of Tina & Yvette!). I've stayed on much longer than planned (not that I have one...)
  • It is literally the shopping mall of Asia. They weren't kidding when they describe this place as the mecca of shopping - for the love of goodness, there is one in every single MRT (skytrain) station! For me, as a person who doesn't really like shopping or malls - well, it makes it interesting. Man, it's hard not to be pretentious or materialistic in this city - it's practically geared for you to lust after the latest technology with free wifi everywhere or want the coolest trends and fashion when Gucci, Polo and YSL greet you in every corner. It's an urban jungle with everything that you can ever want, you just have to pay a premium for it. It's not cheap!
  • Typical jaunts - I 've hit Sentosa - very resort-like beautiful, but very touristy and I got rained on in the man made beach. Orchard park - Just tons of shopping and shiny, beautiful people everywhere - I think I paid $5 to sit and have a coffee and people watch. Strolled through Clark/Boat Quay and enjoyed views of the restaurants and bars along the Singapore River, while checking out the good looking expats having their post-work drinks. I've meandered around Little India while taking pictures and eating samosas. I jogged around the Botanic Gardens and took way too many orchid pictures.
  • Chinatown - What is it about Chinatowns around the world that gives it the feeling of familiarity and exoticness at the same time? At one point in time, walking around, watching people buy and sell crazy trinkets - I had my "Omg, I'm in freaking Asia" moment! It may have been eating garlic soya frogs, drinking Tiger beer and going into the temples to see the golden Buddhas, the ornate decorations and burning of the incense...
  • Chinese New Year - It's the year of the rabbit and you see decorations everywhere of bunnies (it took me a while to realize this...hahaha...but once I did it all made so much more sense)! The holiday also means that everything is closed so really there has been a lot of aimless walking around. Dana came for a whirlwind weekend to celebrate it - we had a great CNY dinner that started with Champagne, Paella and tossed the Lo Hei for a year of good fortune. It was a huge night out going to a few different bars with great company (thanks Nadia & Stacey)...perhaps um, too crazy for/of me! Mmm...I still hope it's an auspicious year! Then there was another 'typical' open house = we just ate and ate and ate.
  • The food - oh the gloriously spicy, tasty and delectable culinary goodness of Singapore. Now, this is my typa fare - The hawkers (cheap outdoor food stalls) sell yummy affordable food all over the place. Everything has a sumptuous kick to it I'm not sure how the Westerners manage. But it's just about perfect for me!
I've finally bought a Lonely Planet...that means that I might have a plan soon. LOL - Well, at least more of an idea of what's next. I'm thinking heading North to Malaysia...